I knew that galaxies collide with one another. I have taken images of the Whirlpool galaxy like the one below (I wish mine looked that good, but alas, I don’t own my own Hubble).
Heck, our galaxy is on a collision course with Andromeda. The image below is what the sky would look like in 4 billion from Earth. Sadly we will not be around because our Sun will have probably already eaten use in its dying stages. 😦
I also knew that galaxies could form clusters. Our last speaker at the Riverside Astronomical Society (RAS) meeting, Dr. Gillian Wilson, gave a fascinating talk on the properties of galaxy clusters and some of her more interesting findings.
But now, it has been discovered that galaxy clusters are colliding with each other! Pretty soon we may find out that entire Universes are colliding with each other ( a hypothesis at this point in time with no empirical data to support the theory).
A glowing cosmic structure millions of light-years long represents the aftermath of the impact of two merging galaxy clusters, researchers say.
Astrophysicist Ettore Carretti and his team found the collision using the Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The team uncovered the largest structure found in the Universe to date.
“It is more than 100 times the size of our galaxy, the Milky Way, which already stretches for 100,000 light-years.” Carretti said.
The researchers detected a diffuse radio glow in the gas and dust connecting the cluster’s periphery to its core. The structure is about 13 million light-years long.
Carretti said: “This is the first clear imaging of a huge impact between two merging clusters of galaxies. The overall structure we observe, part of which was already known, is a monster shock wave and its trailing wake caused by the cluster impact. The wake is the leftover after the passage of the shock, which leaves behind a turbulent ‘shaken’ medium.”
The shock wave is expanding at a speed of about 2.6 million miles per hour (4.3 million kilometers per hour).
This kind of structure was predicted by cosmological simulations of galaxy cluster formation “but was never clearly pictured before,” Carretti said. “Our results seem to confirm what was predicted by the simulations and will help understand how galaxy clusters formed and evolve.”
The researchers will check other clusters to see if they can find other similar structures. “We want to understand how common such very large-scale structures are and what would be the implications in understanding the formation and the evolution of the galaxy clusters,” Carretti said.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +
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